News | 5 September 2023
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99 percent of Ahi Kā event waste saved from landfill

During the four-day Matariki Ahi Kā event in July, a whopping 687kgs of waste was generated from the kai court as people flocked to the city to celebrate, eat, and drink. But a recent waste audit report shows that 99 percent of the event waste was able to be diverted from the landfill – meaning only 8kgs of rubbish had to go to the tip!

Group of people standing behind bags of rubbish in a carpark.

This exciting result comes from the hard work of partner organisations and Council's Creative Capital events team staff who went above and beyond to plan and execute a greener event.

Cool stats about the waste savings:

  • 78% of the waste was diverted for composting.
  • 21% of the waste was diverted for recycling.
  • The event achieved a 99% waste diversion rate.
  • Recyclable plastic and cans, cardboard and glass were collected, sorted and diverted from the landfill through contractor Envirowaste. These waste streams equated to 18% (125kg) of the total waste that was diverted from landfill.
  • 411kg of food and non-PLA compostable packaging was sorted and composted at the Wellington Capital Compost Facility. This was the largest waste stream, accounting for 60% of the total waste generated. Only a small amount of waste was unable to be composted or recycled. This equated to 8.3kg or 1% of the total weight.

Production Manager Cathy Knowsley was contracted to the Council to plan the operational side of Ahi Kā. She says a huge part of being able to reduce waste was adapting the space and layout of the event and working closely with the food trucks who were involved.

“We decided to have a seated food court so we could contain where people would be consuming food and find a balance of vendor numbers to attendees to minimise people bringing in rubbish from outside the site.

“We put out a call for food vendors with a requirement to use compostable packaging and to agree to minimising waste. They were really on board with that stuff anyway and have been doing it for years.”

Matariki kai court.

How waste was managed during the event

The team at Organic Wealth played an instrumental part of the waste reduction, with workers stationed at the bins educating people on what could be recycled or composted. They also worked tirelessly at the end of each night to sort out the waste, says Organic Wealth Waste Minimisation Events Manager James Michael. 

“We place experienced waste minimisation educators at each recycling station who are tasked with engaging and inspiring people to put things in the right bin. Our goal is for everyone to walk away with a little nugget of inspiration and knowledge about waste, which they can use in their own lives. This is a point of difference for us.

“Throughout the event we sort through the bins to ensure there is no contamination. We even put a bag over the landfill bins to show people that there is no such thing as 'rubbish', that almost everything can be recycled or composted if you know how. And the proof is in the pudding – 99 percent diversion from landfill over four days, a remarkable result!”

The team did a lot of research and planning on how they could accommodate for the different waste streams, even down to the finer details  such what to do about the aluminium hāngi containers, says James.

“One of our staff went the extra mile to wash all aluminium hangi containers and recycle them. He then took all PLA materials such as coffee cups, waxy packaging, and food packaging with inks that usually go to landfill back to his own hot composting system to compost them. This bumped up our waste diversion by at least 10 to 15 percent.”

The future of waste reduction for events

Wellington City Council Waste Minimisation Officer Joanna Langford says that it’s exciting to see events adapt over the years and to see the systems at work. 

“Within the city, there is a bylaw that events over a certain number of people need to have a waste plan in place, which help ensure event organisers know what types of waste will be generated at an event so unnecessary waste is designed out and reusable or recyclable solutions are planned for.

“We have some excellent guides and resources on how to reduce waste at your event and can loan free colour-coded bins or offer bespoke advice about the best systems and solutions.” 

Looking towards the future, Jo sees things heading in a positive direction and encourages people to think about how they minimise or reduce waste on every level.

“There are so many ways for people to reduce waste, and plenty of people like Organic Wealth out there who go the extra mile in investigating waste streams and educating people. To really make a meaningful difference, the next step is for event organisers to move towards providing reusable service-ware at events.  Attendees can make this transition easy by aiming to bring their own reusable crockery and cutlery to events.

“Low waste events can demonstrate zero waste in action, with lots of tips attendees can take home and apply to their own lives.”

 Find out more about reducing waste at events.